Monday, July 18, 2016

As this atheist turns 60

I recently had my 60th birthday. Whoopee for me, right? Well, I was thinking that it has been some time since I posted a particularly thoughtful article on topic here and I thought this occasion would be a good time to get back into the swing of it and continue my blog posts. So I started considering what I might have to say that would be interesting or noteworthy. In an election year there are a lot of things I could discuss but for the moment I’m going to steer clear of that can of worms. I could talk about atheists being slaughtered in Bangladesh and elsewhere or the insidious and otherwise silly notion of a national day of prayer. However, I’m not ready to tackle those just yet. Nor am I ready to discuss the plethora of terrorist attacks in Florida, France and elsewhere. I’m working on those, to be sure. I’m just not quite ready to put those down in a post.
One of the things I’ve noticed as I enter my seventh decade is that as people get older a lot of them tend to double down on their religious beliefs. Either that or they seek to reconnect with their religious roots. For me, as an atheist, this makes no sense. I don’t understand why magical thinking would suddenly seem sensible just because one gets old. There are those who become senile or experience dementia when they get old and I would never make an issue of someone going back to religion if their mind is going. But when you still have all of your faculties intact, why would you abandon reason just because time is growing short? If reason, facts and evidence were important to you as a twenty year old, why would they suddenly become less important just because you have started to get grey and wrinkled? Nevertheless some people expect that we atheists will also start to drift back to god or gods as we reach senior citizen status. Well, some religious people think that everyone gets concerned about god when they are getting close to death no matter what age they are. Like the notion that I’ve heard from several people over the years that there are no atheists in foxholes. A large number of the religious assume that everyone begins to pray when in imminent danger or under extreme duress. It’s a comforting myth that many theists hold on to because it reassures them that they are the ones who have been doing it right. It’s just another part of the delusion of religion as far as I’m concerned.
There seems little doubt that for a lot of people fear of death becomes more of an immediate concern as it gets closer to the end. It's understandable that feeling your mortality leads to such thoughts. Death looms larger as you get older like the opening of a tunnel that seems barely visible when you are far away but begins to fill your field of vision as you get close to it. In your teens, death is a far-off, nebulous concept but when you reach my age it is a very substantial impending threat. The dread of death often manifests as a particular interest in what, if anything, happens after life ends. Many people tend to become increasingly fearful about it. For some, apparently this leads to religion although I can’t figure out why it would be that way for an atheist especially if that atheist’s lack of belief stems from reason and intellect as opposed to mere unfamiliarity and a lack of exposure to religious ideas.
One thing I want to do in this post is to make sure that I announce, loud and clearly, that I have not remotely come near to entertaining religion as I have begun to feel my final days approaching. If anything, religion is less attractive to me as I get older. The detrimental effects of religion in the modern world are, if anything, far more striking than ever before in my life. I still don’t buy the pseudo-logic of Pascal’s Wager or any other argument for belief. My rationale for becoming an atheist in the first place has not faded nor has my resolve to seek knowledge through the scientific method weakened in the slightest. I’m still not likely to fall for false promises or placebos. I won’t deny that death has become a far greater concern to me these days and I have been careful to eat a healthy diet and I’m trying to exercise in order to forestall this inevitable fate for as long as possible. However, fear of death is not going to make me opine for the old notions of heaven and eternal life I was raised to believe in.
While exended life is something I would choose to pursue if there was some scientific basis for that pursuit, I find those concepts to actually be unattractive as they are presented in religious dogma even if they were true. To spend an eternity in obiescence to some repugnant deity like the Christian or Muslim god is a nauseating idea. If life after death turned out to be a reality I would be happy as long as it didn’t come at the expense of others or mean that any of the traditional god concepts I’ve encountered turned out to be real. To spend eternity in slavery to one of those egomaniacal monsters isn’t something I would care to endure. I don’t actually think there is any chance of that but I do consider all possibilities when I think about such things.
In a humanities class I had back in 1998, one of the questions we were asked to consider was whether we would want to live forever if we could. It was an exercise that revealed a lot about the people in my class and led to some interesting discussions as well as a couple of heated arguments. The majority of my classmates said they would not want to live forever even if they could although it would depend to some extent on whether they would have to live a life of weakness and frailty or could live that time in youthful vigor. I agree with this concern. I would not want to live forever frail, weak and sickly. Who would? In fact, I was almost the only one there who responded in the affirmative even given the guarantee of being able to live that life in good health with full faculties. I would even consider having my consciousness transferred to a robot or computer simulation if those options where available. I think having many more years in which to learn and experience new things would be something I would like. One of the major concerns would be having to live long enough to see loved ones, even children, die before you. I recognize that this would be a painful thing to endure but it would not disuade me from choosing such an extended life.
For me, life is desireable for its own sake and preferable to the oblivion that I am sure is the only alternative. But as I said, even though I would want to be able to go on living as long as possible given reasonable health, I don’t see religion as having anything to offer on that topic. I find the idea of resurrection in perfection to be particularly silly and not worthy of consideration. It is clearly an empty promise. Having been a Mormon for the last few years of my prior religious life I think the additional notion of living in heavenly families is even more of a stretch of wishful thinking. I’m embarrassed to say that it was one of the things that attracted Mormonism to me as my final attempt to find something salvagable in religion before I came to my senses and admitted it was all nonsense.
No matter how old I get, as long as my mental faculties are intact, I will continue to follow the facts where they lead no matter whether I like the answers or not. If others find false promises attractive in their dotage, that is their business. I don’t see the attraction but I don’t expect everyone to be sensible. I just know that I’m not going to be one of those who will jump back into the mire of religious nonsense no matter what promises it makes. Until there is the slightest evidence that any of it is true, it remains completely useless to me. I will never abandon reason to chase rainbows pointlessly nor would I want to encourage others to do so.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Euphemisms for STUPID

We hear them all the time, sometimes cautiously whispered and other times as “in your face” insults. I would guess that people usually question the intelligence of others with a simple statement like: “She’s not too smart” or “He’s rather stupid” or even “You’re a dumb ass.” However, it just seems to make more impact when it’s done in a creative manner. Besides, I think it’s a lot more entertaining than bland statements of fact/opinion. Also, if the reference is sufficiently oblique, you can say it right in front of the person in question and they won’t get it. That makes it all the more entertaining.

Euphemisms abound in spoken language and even in a lot of fiction, at least in English. I can’t speak about many other languages but I know there are as many euphemisms if not more in Russian so I presume it’s pretty much a worldwide phenomenon. I have heard or read a lot of euphemisms for “Stupid” and I suspect there aren't many other topics where more euphemisms are used. Without doing a survey, I think there are probably more euphemisms for genitalia and sex. Other than that I don’t think there is a larger variety than those used to question someone’s intelligence. So I began a search for all of the creative ones I could find. Currently this list contains more than 400 examples.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many euphemisms for STUPID are kind of formulaic. Some forms are very common while others lag a little behind in popularity. This list starts with some of the more formulaic ones. I’ll put a few examples of them under the formulae and then put the majority in appendices at the end. Apparently anything goes and some people really seem to stretch just a bit too much for some of these but I’m going to try not to be too judgmental about it. My intent is to list the expressions that are in common usage, or at least used to be. Some are things I may not have heard before but I just considered them too funny not to include. Sometimes if the comparison is a little far off the beaten path (so to speak) you can help get the point across by following it up by saying, “If you know what I mean.” Some of these are not even euphemisms but just a little obscure or oblique.

While a lot euphemisms take the form of a metaphor, similes are very common as well. Some are sarcastic like the following ones which often start with an ambiguous synonym for smart: Sharp, Bright, Quick or the opposites: Slow, Dull, Dim and take something like the following form:

    As ______ as a ______.


    About as sharp as a bowling ball.
    As bright as a burned out bulb.
    As quick as a snail on Quaaludes.

Alternatively they may just be straightforward comparisons using “Smart”, ”Intelligent”, “Dumb”, “Stupid”, etc.


    Smart as a box of rocks.
    Dumb as a stump.
    Dumber than a bag of hammers.

See more examples in Appendix A

A whole bunch of these euphemisms take the form below. Looking through older writings you will see that this form has been around for a long time. One of the reasons this is so common is that the possible variations are practically limitless. You can see what I mean if you look at appendix C. Personally I think the best use of this form takes into account the context. For instance if you’re talking about a very religious Catholic or a Nun saying that “She’s a few beads short of a rosary” fits better than saying “She’s a few whiskers short of a beard.” Anyway, without further ado, here’s the formula:

    A few _____ short of a ______.
    A _____ short of a _______.

(sometimes ‘shy’ is used instead of ‘short’)


    A few sandwiches short of a picnic.
    A few cowboys short of a rodeo.
    A few bricks shy of a load.
    A cup and a saucer short of a place setting.
    A few french fries short of a Happy Meal.

See more examples in Appendix C

Another very common form for these insults is the one below. This is another one where the possibilities are virtually endless. They are easy to create. I made up a few of my own during the time I was working on this list. They go like this:

    Not the _____est _____ on/in the _______.


    Not the sharpest tool in the shed.
    Not the brightest bulb on the porch.

I’ve seen some more unusual ones like these but for me they are trying a bit too hard to be clever.

    Not the crunchiest chip in the bag.
    Not the crispest shirt in the closet.

See more examples in Appendix B

A form that is less common but still seen quite a bit is this:

    Doesn’t have all their ______ in one/a ________.

I put ‘in’ in the pattern but variations can use other prepositions like ‘on’ or ‘at’ etc. Actually this form is one of the most flexible and I’m sure some expressions only loosely fit the pattern but that’s ok. I think this gets my point across.


    He doesn't have all his dogs on one leash.
    She doesn’t have all her chairs at the table.

See more examples in Appendix D

There are a wide range of metaphors as well as every other kind of reference and comparison found in these expressions Comparisons are made to everything imaginable. Check these out:

Tools and machinery (usually malfunctioning or broken)

    His car is fine but there’s a loose nut behind the wheel.
    The engine is running but nobody is behind the wheel.
    The choke is stuck on his mental carburetor.
    His trolley ran off the tracks.
    He parked his head and forgot where he left it.
    Body by Fisher (God) - brains by Mattel.
    His little red choo choo has jumped the track.
    The oil doesn't reach his dipstick.
    His dipstick doesn't quite reach the oil.
    Her wipers don't touch the glass.
    His mind runs on sailboat fuel.
    The caboose seems to be pulling the engine.
    Her axel is a little bit off camber.
    Your little red choo-choo's gone chugging 'round the bend.
    He’s not firing on all cylinders.
    She’s running on 3 (5,7) cylinders.
    He has some lug nuts rattling in his hubcaps.
    She's running about a quart low.
    His seat back is not in the full upright and locked position.
    He’s driving with two wheels in the sand.
    She's a lap behind the field.
    She ran out of gas before her car.
    He's all booster, no payload.
    He’s not exactly running on all thrusters. (Star Trek said by Dr. McCoy)
    She only has one oar in the water.
    His boat doesn’t have all its oars in the water.
    Both ofhis oars are in the water, but on the same side of the boat.
    Her bicycle works but the training wheels wobble.
    The gates are down and the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.
    If he went any slower he'd have to speed up to stop.
    He has the parachute but is missing the ripcord.
    Her elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor (penthouse).
    His elevator is stuck between floors.
    His elevator goes to the top but the doors don't open.
    She’s got a screw loose (or a few screws loose).
    When he was a kid, his tricycle had training wheels.
    Her battery isn’t fully charged.
    His antenna doesn't pick up all the channels.
    Her receiver is off the hook.
    Her batteries weren't included.
    His screen has a permanent test pattern.
    His modem only runs at 400 baud.
    His hard drive is spinning but the OS hasn't been installed.
    Her brain’s sending packets, but the checksums are wrong.
    There are some bugs in his software.
    His CPU isn't connected to the bus.
    Her phone is on but there's no reception.
    His laptop's on but there's no internet connection.
    He’s missing a few buttons on his remote control.
    She’s all phone, no receiver.
    His strip is demagnetized.
    The cheese slid off his cracker.
    Her pilot light has gone out.
    He has a leak in his skylight.
    She’s about half a bubble off plumb.
    His rope slipped off its pulley.
    He’s a few degrees off square.
    He’s dumber than paint.
    His belt doesn't go through all the loops.
    Her sewing machine is out of thread.
    The logs are ablaze but the chimney is clogged.
    He would lose a debate with a doorknob.
    A few too many lights are out on his Christmas tree.
    He writes blank checks on a closed account.
    His mind is on vacation but his mouth is working overtime.
    There are too many birds on her antenna.
    There’s a whole lot of chopping, but no chips are flying.
    She has a mind like a steel sieve.
    He’s a dim bulb.
    He just uses his head for a hatrack.
    Nice house, not much furniture.
    The lights are on but nobody's home.
    His porch light ain’t on.
    The porch light’s on but nobody's home.
    His attic's a little dusty.
    She has a few cobwebs in her attic.
    He’s got the mental agility of a soap dish. (can also use most any other inanimate object)
    He hasn't got enough sense to come in out of the rain.
    She’s off her rocker.
    He’s clearly off his nut.
    He’s a real whack job.
    The smoke doesn't make it to the top of his chimney.
    She’s thick as a brick.
    He has a vacancy on the top floor.
    Music & Sports
    He’s conducting without an orchestra.
    Her fiddle's not in tune.
    The spit valve's fallen off his trumpet.
    She’s not singing from the same hymn book.
    All the lights don't shine in his marquis
    He’s playing hockey with a warped puck.
    He wouldn't know if he was on foot or horseback.
    He's got a bow but no arrows.
    He has too much yardage between his goal posts.
    He hasn't seen the ball since kickoff.
    She’s not playing with a full deck.
    Her slinky has a kink or two.

References to IQ & Intellect

    He has an IQ of room temperature. (or south of room temperature)
    Her IQ is lower than plant life.
    He has the relative IQ of a deck chair.
    She has an IQ lower than her shoe size.
    If her IQ goes up to 40, she should sell.
    He is one IQ point above brain death.
    His IQ is lower than a snake's belly in a wagon-rut.
    Hers is an intellect rivaled only by garden tools.
    A .22 caliber intellect in a .357 Magnum world.
    She’s intellectually challenged.
    If "What you don't know can't hurt you," he's practically superman.

References to Insufficiency

    His driveway doesn’t go all the way to the road.
    His driveway doesn't quite reach the garage.
    Her mooring lines don't reach the dock.
    He’s all foam, no beer.
    ...all lime and salt, no tequila.
    ...all shot, no powder.
    ...all wax and no wick.
    Her phone doesn't quite reach her desk.
    He’s as smart as a lawyer is honest.
    She’s overdrawn at the brain bank.
    Her dock doesn't quite reach the water.
    He doesn't have a round in every chamber.
    He doesn't have elastic in both of his socks.
    She doesn't have the sense God gave an animal cracker.
    He has insufficient funds in the brain bank.
    He has delusions of adequacy.
    She forgot to pay her brain bill.
    There’s no hay in the loft.
    She’s sitting in the right pew, but in the wrong church.
    Somebody lend her a quarter to buy a clue.
    His jack can't get the car off the ground.
    There’s not enough salt in her shaker.
    She has plenty of salt in the shaker, but no holes in the cap.
    There’s no grain in his silo.
    He’s paralyzed from the neck up.
    There are echoes between her ears.
    There’s too much air between her ears.
    His brain tank is running on empty.
    Not all his soldiers are marching in line.
    She’s knitting with only one needle.
    If you gave him a penny for his thoughts, you'd get change back.
    He’s got a leak in his think-tank.
    There is only half a cord in his woodshed.
    His corn bread isn't done in the middle.
    You’re not wrapped too tight.
    Nice cage, but no bird
    His candy bowl is not quite full.
    Her biscuits aren't quite baked.
    She’s an open book but the pages are blank.
    He’s missing a few cards from his catalog.
    He’s missing a few marbles.

Missing & Lost References

    He doesn't know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt.
    He couldn't hit the floor if he fell on it.
    He couldn't find his way out of a paper bag.
    He couldn’t find his butt with two hands and a road map. (both hands and a flashlight)
    She’s lost contact with the mothership.
    He left the scene before his body.
    He’s out in left field without a mitt.
    You’ve lost your marbles.
    He’s a lost ball in high weeds.
    She couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel.

Brain References

    If brains were dynamite, he couldn't blow his hat off.
    If brains were dynamite, he wouldn't have enough to blow his nose.
    If brains were electricity, she wouldn't have enough to light a firefly.
    If he had another brain it would be lonely.
    Donated his brain to science before he was done with it.
    If he had a brain he’d be on the floor playing with it.
    She has a Teflon brain (nothing sticks)
    You could fit all her brains in a thimble and still have room for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!
    He had two brains but he lost one and the other went out looking for it.
    Her brain is like a BB in a boxcar.
    His brain on a razor’s edge would look like a BB on a two lane highway.
    He has a Neanderthal brain in a Cro-Magnon body.
    He has vacuum-tube brain in a microchip world.
    Her brain is permanently in power saving mode.
    She has varicose brains.
    He doesn't have two neurons to rub together. (or brain cells)
    He got his brains as a stocking stuffer.
    He got his brains in a Cracker Jack box.
    His brain was sold separately and they were out of stock.
    If brains were water, hers wouldn't be enough to baptize a flea.
    If her brains were put in a hummingbird, it would fly backwards.
    With another brain he would be a half-wit.
    His brain has one boot stuck in the sand.
    He has a brain only a mother could love?
    His only brain cell finally died of loneliness.

Possible Causes

    He fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.
    He’s proof that evolution CAN go in reverse.
    She has to take turns using the family brain-cell.
    They all have one brain on a time share.
    There was too much chlorine in his gene pool.
    Most people drink from the fountain of knowledge, she only gargled.
    She was hiding behind the door when they passed out brains.
    He suffers from cranio-rectal inversion. (see below)
    His head is up his ass.
    She rode the short bus to school.
    If ignorance is bliss, she must be in heaven.
    He'd come in third in a duel.
    She answers the door when the phone rings.
    His head whistles in a cross wind.
    He’s living proof that nature does not abhor a vacuum.
    He suffers from ano-fossal ambiguity. (see below)
    He can't tell his ass from a hole in the ground.
    She fell out of her family tree.
    She’s just differently clued.
    He was left on the Tilt-A-Whirl a bit too long as a baby.
    She got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn't watching.
    She’s an experiment in Artificial Stupidity.
    As a baby his parents stood him on his soft spot.
    His head went on holiday.
    Contents settled some during shipping.
    Born during low tide in the gene pool.
    His mind wandered and never came back.
    On permanent leave of absence from his senses.
    During evolution his ancestors were in the control group.
    He’s the goalie for his dart team.
    She suffers from Clue Deficit Disorder.
    He just fell off the turnip truck.

Animal & Plant References

    The bats are out of her belfry.
    Ignoramus Rex.
    He has bats in his belfry.
    His dog teaches him new tricks.
    The wheel is spinning but the hamster fell off (or is dead).
    Any slower and he'd need to be watered once a week.
    He has a kangaroo (roo) loose in the top paddock.
    He doesn't have all his dogs barking.

How Dumb is He/She?

    He is depriving some village of its idiot.
    She’s a few shades beyond blonde.
    He’s a Mensa reject.
    She’s a shining example of why you should avoid inbreeding.
    She would argue with a signpost.
    You’re a monosynaptic cretin (If you don't understand it my point is made)
    She’s like a pair of children’s scissors, bright and colorful, but not too sharp.
    He’s a poster child for birth control.
    People around her are at risk of second hand idiocy.
    It takes him an hour and a half to watch "60 Minutes".
    He plays solitaire for cash.
    She's immune from any serious head injury.
    He can't count his balls and get the same answer twice.
    She cheats when filling out opinion polls.
    He couldn't count to 21 if he were barefoot with no pants.
    He thinks Plato is a friend of Mickey Mouse.
    Her ears serve the same function as holes in a dribble glass.
    He always loses battles of wits because he's unarmed.
    I could outwit him with half my brain tied behind my back.
    If you put a lens in each of her ears you've got a telescope.
    Guillotining him would only make an aesthetic difference.
    He has signs on both ears saying "Space for Rent."
    Her dentist went deaf from the drill's echoes.
    He’s sort of like an inverse Einstein.
    He views mold as a higher life form.
    She's so stupid, mind readers charge her half price.
    He sets the lowest possible goals, and consistently fails to achieve them.
    She couldn’t tell which way an elevator was going if she had two guesses.
    If you stand close enough to her you can hear the sea.
    If his nose was on upside down he'd drown in the rain.
    You can have more meaningful conversations with a brick wall.
    He’s a member in good standing at the church of Duh. In fact, I think he’s a deacon.
    She eats soup with a fork.
    He’s a mental midget.
    He’s so dense light bends around him.
    If brains were taxed, she’d get a rebate.
    If stupid were a talent, she would be considered gifted.
    It’s hard to believe that he beat out half a billion other sperm.
    Calling him an idiot would be an insult to all the idiots in the world.
    She would be out of her depth in a mud puddle.
    He uses his head to keep the rain out of his neck.

And Then There’s always Scatology

    He’s got shit for brains.
    He doesn’t have all his shit in one sock.
    He's as useless as crap on a cracker.
    He’s not the fastest fly in the shit.
    He doesn’t know shit from Shinola.
Appending A
About as sharp as a marble.
As sharp as a bowling ball.
As sharp as a bowl of Jello.
As sharp as a thimble.
As sharp as a banana.
As sharp as a pound of liver.
As sharp as a sack of wet mice.
As sharp as a sack of wet leather.
As bright as a burned out bulb.
As bright as a lump of coal.
As bright as a lamp in Aladdin's cave.
As quick as a snail on Quaaludes.
As quick as a turtle on Xanax.
As quick as a snail crossing super-glue.
As smart as a bag of socks.
As smart as bait.
As smart as a box of rocks.
As bright as a nightlight.
As bright as mud.
As focused as a fart.
As dumb as a donkey.
As dumb as a stump.
As dumb as a corn cob.
As dumb as a salt shaker.
As dumb as a bag of hammers.
As dumb as a box of hair.
As nutty as a fruitcake.
As deep as a saucer of milk.
As dense as Sherwood Forest.
As dense as the Amazon Rainforest.
Appending B
Not the brightest light in the harbor.
Not the brightest bulb on the porch.
Not the brightest bulb in the box.
Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
Not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.
Not the brightest crayon in the box.
Not the brightest paint on the palette.
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Not the sharpest arrow in the quiver.
Not the sharpest pencil in the box.
Not the sharpest crayon in the box.
Not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Not the sharpest sword in the armory.
Not the sharpest hook in the tackle box.
Not the sharpest pitchfork in the barn.
Not the quickest bunny in the forest.
Not the quickest cheetah on the savannah.
Not the quickest horse in the stable.
Not the quickest ship in the fleet.
Not the quickest car on the track.
Not the crunchiest chip in the bag.
Not the crispest shirt in the closet.
Appending C
A few bales short of a wagon load.
A few bananas short of a bunch.
A few beers short of a six-pack.
A few bits short of a byte.
A few boats short of a fleet.
A few boxes short of a pallet.
A few bricks short of a load.
A few bristles short of a broom.
A few board members short of a quorum.
A few Bradys short of a bunch.
A burger short of a combo meal.
Four cents short of a nickel.
A few burgers short of a barbecue.
A few cards short of a deck.
A few cents short of a dollar.
A few clowns short of a circus.
A few colors short of a rainbow.
A few cowboys short of a rodeo.
A few cracker jacks short of a full box.
A few crayons short of a full box.
A few dollars short of a paycheck.
A few dogs short of a sled team.
A few electrons short of an isotope.
A few feathers short of a duck.
A few fuses short of a full circuit.
A few fries short of a Happy Meal.
A few fruit loops shy of a full bowl.
A few grams short of a pound.
A few grapes short of a fruit salad.
A few gunmen short of a posse.
A few ice bricks shy of an igloo.
A few keys short of a keyboard.
A few leaves short of a bush.
A few leftovers short of a bread pudding.
A few links missing from his chain.
A few tiles missing from his space shuttle.
A flower short of an arrangement.
A few marshmallows short of a bowl of Lucky Charms.
A few megabytes short of a gig.
A few needles short of a sewing kit.
A few peas short of a casserole.
A few people short of a party.
A few pineapples shy of a luau.
A few players short of a team.
A few teachers short of a faculty.
A few plums short of a pie.
A few Prozac short of a prescription.
A few twists short of a slinky.
A few threads short of a sweater.
A few sandwiches short of a picnic.
A few screws short of a hardware store.
A few whiskers short of a beard.
A few tacos short of a fiesta platter.
A few watts short of a light bulb.
A few pecans short of a fruitcake.
A few toppings short of a Deluxe Pizza.
A few sheep short of a flock.
A few springs short of a watch.
A few slices shy of a loaf.
A few yards short of a touchdown.
A few roots shy of an apple tree.
A few whiskers short of a kitten.
A few tires short of an eighteen wheeler.
A cup and a saucer short of a place setting.
A few eggs shy of a dozen.
A few ants short of a picnic.
A few trucks short of a convoy.
A few beads short of a rosary.
A few birds shy of a flock.
A few guppies short of an aquarium.
A few chickens short of a henhouse.
A few chapters short of a novel.
A few saucers short of a tea-service.
A couple eggs short of an omelet.
Appending D
He doesn't have all his dogs on one leash.
She doesn’t have all her chairs at the table.
He doesn’t have both oars in the water.
He doesn't have all the dots on his dice.
He doesn’t have all his monkeys in the barrel.
She doesn’t have all her ducks in a row.
She doesn’t have all her china in the cupboard.
She doesn't have all of her groceries in the same bag.
He doesn’t have all his cornflakes in one box.
He doesn’t have all his soldiers marching in one line.
She doesn't have all her peas in one pod.
He doesn’t have all his stuff in one sack.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 Commandments better than God's

Author Sam Harris says that we probably all know that we could come up with a much better set of ten commandments than God did in the Bible. He said, "Consider the possibility of improving the Ten Commandments. This would appear to be setting the bar rather high, as these are the only passages in the Bible that the Creator of the universe felt the need to physically write himself." One would think these would be unquestioningly the most important rules we could possibly find. We should be awed at the wisdom of these laws. But instead we find a bunch of nonsense along with some proscriptions against murder, lying and theft. Does anyone really think the ten commandments as found in the Bible are really the best an omniscient god could come up with? I won't go into the sheer lunacy of the commandment "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk," found in Exodus 34. I'm not claiming to be God. I'm just saying that I agree with Sam that the average person could come up with ten rules for life that are far superior to God's. Of course, God needed to use many of his ten to reinforce his dominance with things like "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" and "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." And I don't' think most of us would feel the need to include hygiene or dietary laws either. I suspect that some believers will argue that these were laws given to the Hebrews and can't be expected to apply exactly with the world we live in today. If so many people did not think it was appropriate to post these "commandments" in public places like courthouses insisting that our laws are based upon God's law, I might agree. But obviously many believers think the ten commandments are the ultimate law. So I took some time to think about this and discussed it with friends. The following is what I came up with. Maybe they aren't the ultimate laws of the world and you might be able to come up with some better ideas but that only proves the point of this post.

  1. Thou shalt treat other people with fairness and kindness as you would like them to treat you.
  2. Thou shalt not abuse any person physically, sexually, psychologically, economically, emotionally or any other way regardless of their age, sex, color, nationality or creed.
  3. Thou shalt never consider another person to be your property nor force or coerce them to serve you.
  4. Thou shalt not kill any person unless you must to defend yourself or other people from grievous harm.
  5. Thou shalt be truthful in dealing with other people unless the truth serves no purpose but to harm.
  6. Thou shalt not cheat, exploit, extort or impose your will upon other people.
  7. Thou shalt not steal the property of another person unless you must to survive and taking it will not endanger the owner. Try asking first.
  8. Thou shalt not harm another person unless you must to defend yourself or other people from harm.
  9. Thou shalt endeavor to contribute your talents and energies to the betterment of the entire community of humans.
  10. Thou shalt endeavor to provide at least the necessities of life to those people who are unable to fend for themselves.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's Presidency like the Second Coming?

I've found that most atheists are as far left leaning as you can get. It's understandable inasmuch as we are extremely liberal on so many issues. Naturally most of us align ourselves politically with the party that seems most attuned to our viewpoints on religious and social issues such as racism, sexism and homosexuality. However much I agree with them on these issues, I can't bring myself to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I cannot accept the tendency toward socialism and the Robin Hood mentality of the Democrat party. I'm a registered libertarian but I realize that my party is not seriously in competition for the presidency. This always makes for a difficult decision for me at the polls. On the one hand I want my country's leader to be opposed to bigotry of all kinds and not to kowtow to the dictates of religion and all of its ridiculous notions. On the other hand, I do not want America to become like the failed and failing socialist nations in Europe. It is clear to me that socialism is not the answer to our problems. Obama is right that we need change. But the change we need is not to turn our nation into another third world nation or socialist regime. For instance, socialized medicine is nothing more than a way to insure that everyone has free access to equally pathetic healthcare.

One of the ballot propositions in my state this year was put forth to keep our freedom of choice in healthcare from being overridden by well-meaning advocates of universal healthcare. The measure specifically and unequivocally stated that its intent was only to preserve our freedom to choose our own healthcare. And yet, the proposition was defeated because its opponents successfully convinced the electorate that it would prevent them from providing healthcare to those who are poor and on public assistance. No one has ever made a cogent argument for that position but voters fell for it. So we are now likely to have healthcare insurance foisted on us that will provide us with no choice and, just like Canada, we will be told that we will have to wait in a queue for important surgery or other treatment because our freedom to choose has been denied us. Freedom is what this nation was founded upon and that is exactly what is draining away like sand through our fingers.

And what have the Democrats given us atheists to be happy about with this election? Obama is just as much a religious person as the other candidates. He has promised to enhance the Bush doctrine of giving tax dollars to religious institutions. Just how have we gained any ground in the fight to secure real religious freedom? Sure, he pays lip service to the notion that people of every faith or no faith at all are all equal, but I am left to wonder how a man who sat for two decades in Reverend Wright's fundamentalist church and espouses a "growing" Christian spirituality can be serious about this. And the hate-filled racist diatribes of Reverend Wright didn't seem to bother Obama. So what kind of a champion against bigotry can we expect President Obama to be? Obama has been marketed as if he is the second coming of Jesus Christ and I think a lot of people are going to be woefully disappointed in what they got for their vote, especially atheists.

I am extremely tired of people who claim to be colorblind and eschew racism with their words but demonstrate a completely different attitude with their actions. I can't even count the number of people I heard in the national media stating flatly during the presidential campaign that they were voting for Obama simply because he is black. If anyone had said they were voting for his opponent because he was white, they would have been almost burned at the stake. But it's perfectly OK to say you're voting for someone because he is black. What kind of sense does that make? How is that not racism? Who cares what color a candidate is? In my opinion, color is not an issue and should not be a criterion for being elected to public office. While I understand the emotions of people like Tiger Wood's who was tearfully joyful at having the first black president, I think they are missing the entire point of a free nation. Of course it is excellent news that our country has risen above bigotry enough to elect a black person to the highest office. This event should encourage everyone of every race that they can achieve whatever they want if they work for it. The barriers are gone. However, if we have elected a man simply because he is black, we are only indulging in racism by that fact.

It dismays me that people can be blinded to the other real and important issues we face as a nation and elect someone who is not prepared to handle these issues or lead us to be a better and stronger nation just to prove we are not bigots. We have a black president. That’s fantastic. But have we just elected a symbol? Obama has never done anything of substance politically or otherwise. He was helped to every position in life by affirmative action and not completely on his own merit. He seems to have been living in a fantasy world and his politics are all theory based, not experiential. His complete lack of experience is a serious problem looming for his presidency and for us as a nation.

The real problem is that Obama's stated goals are completely impossible. He and Joe Biden want to indulge in rampant redistribution of wealth. They want to tax the hell out of anyone who they deem to be "rich." They want to increase taxes on businesses so they can implement their socialist agenda. But all they will succeed in doing is chasing more businesses offshore and their taxes on the rich will increase the costs of goods and services on the rest of us. Jobs will leak out of our country like water through a colander and they will be forced to define “rich” further and further down to keep funding their ridiculous plans for social engineering. They simply do not see what the country really needs to change in order to give people equal opportunity and to give incentives to make more progress.

Instead of growing government to massive proportions with ever greater grasping for revenue by an onerous tax burden, we need to shrink government and stick to the constitution. The government needs to be there to protect people from harm. It's that simple. The free market system is our best bet as China and other such nations have discovered. Of course we need regulations and protections in place to keep the populace from being abused by corporations and individuals who are unscrupulous. Of course we need to protect and provide for the less fortunate. But you cannot take away the incentive to be productive and expect people to keep forging ahead. As it stands now, our tax rates are confiscatory and unevenly applied. That needs to change. The government wouldn't need to have such preposterously high revenues if it wasn't trying to be everything to everyone. I hear people complaining all the time about our Big Brother government and yet they keep voting for more and bigger government. What do they think will happen? They want to give more and more power and control to the government and yet they want their freedom to be protected. It just doesn't make sense.

I wish President Obama well and I will enthusiastically support him when he is right but I will oppose him when he is wrong just as enthusiastically. I hope that as a nation we can be wise enough to insist on real substantive, useful and productive change from his administration and not just be happily mollified with the pabulum he served up in his campaign speeches. We certainly need change in this country but we don't need to change what made us a great nation that people all over the world flock to for protection from oppression and tyranny. Freedom is what made this country a great place to live. Socialism can only destroy that freedom. It is at least as bad as religion on that count. It cannot help us. Like Jesus Christ, Obama seems to be bringing tyranny disguised as utopia. I just don't see how so many atheists cannot make the connection. I am forced to think that they have given up thinking for themselves and want a nanny government to do it for them. The irony would be funny if it weren't so sad.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Beyond Belief - Food for Thought

In response to the recent books by people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, many theists are complaining about the tone of the debate. This also rankles some scientists who think that such arguments only serve to make the debate about religion more contentious and confrontational. I can see their point but I am with Sam Harris when he says that it is time to stop making it taboo to criticize religious dogma.

In 2006, Dr. Melvin Konner, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Emory University, expressed a desire for more sensitivity in the debate between rational scientists and the theists of the world. Whether or not there is any real validity to this approach, even the most sensitive approach cannot avoid the conclusions below. These are the statements of accepted fact that were put forth by Dr. Konner.

  • There is no verifiable evidence to support religious claims and all testable claims fail.
  • Science continually closes all the gaps in knowledge that religion has been used to fill.
  • What is called the soul is just brain activity.
  • Religion is divisive and causes bigotry, violence, hatred and war.
  • Religion is the "opium of the masses."
  • God is the product of human yearnings for:
    • A perfect parent
    • Reward and punishment
    • Companionship
    • Meaning
    • Escape from death
    • and other human penchants for agency-detection and imagining other minds.
  • More generally in psychological and psychosocial terms religion is a product of human yearnings for:
    • Identity
    • Belonging
    • A sense of superiority
    • Blameworthy enemies
    • Narrative

  • All "sacred" texts are characterized by:
    • Errors and lies
    • Internal contradictions
    • Mutual contradictions
    • Supernatural (i.e. highly implausible) origins
    • Silly or cruel behavior of gods and religious heroes

  • To validate his contention that arguing with theists is pointless, Konner points out, and I'm paraphrasing somewhat:
  1. Most religious people don't care about and are not swayed by proof.
  2. They do not generally care that religion has been the cause of great harm and injustice.
  3. They do not generally care that religious texts are fatally flawed.
  4. They do not generally care that they cannot even define God.
  5. They have been developing rationalizations and subtly fallacious arguments against all these things for millennia.

For different reasons, Dr. Konner and I don't accept the notion put forth by Steven J. Gould that religion and science are simply areas of nonoverlapping magisteria. He says "Neither one is magisteria." I agree that neither is magisteria, partially because that is a religious term. I say that science and religion do overlap and that science is better because it is the only one of the two based on evidence.

Atheism is not a religion but it is a perfect substitute for religion when it proposes to explain purpose or origins. It may not be as comforting to some when confronted with harsh reality but I don't think the vacuous promises of religion are any better. I do not mean to imply that atheism per se explains the origins of life or that it ascribes purpose to the universe. What I should say is that when religion fails to explain origins and purpose, atheism is naturally the correct conclusion.

The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom but to set some limits on infinite error. - Bertolt Brecht's Life of Galileo

It's also commonly imagined that atheists think there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding. The truth of it is that atheists are free to admit that there's much about the universe that we don't understand. I mean it is obvious we don't understand the universe. But it is even more obvious that neither the Bible or the Qu'ran reflects our best understanding of it. - Sam Harris